Marriott Nudges Guests to Tip Housekeepers

Compassionate or sleazy? Marriott will place “Gratitude Envelopes” in its hotel rooms.

As tipping goes, tipping hotel housekeepers is as optional as it gets. There are no reliable statistics on how many travelers leave a few bucks on the nightstand before checking out after their hotel stays, but my best guess is that fewer than 5 percent do.

Marriott wants to increase the frequency with which guests tip housekeepers at its hotels in the U.S. and Canada. To that end, the company will place “Gratitude Envelopes” in 160,000 rooms at participating hotels.

The initiative, according to Marriott, is designed “to encourage and enable hotel guests to express their gratitude by leaving tips and notes of thanks for hotel room attendants in designated envelopes provided in hotel rooms.”

The news release continues:

Hotel room attendants often go unnoticed, as they silently care for the millions of travelers who are on the road at any given time. Because hotel guests do not always see or interact with room attendants, their hard work is many times overlooked when it comes to tipping.

By that logic, we should be tipping hotel employees who work in IT, catering, sales, marketing, and so on. Because in our capacity as travelers, we don’t see or interact with them.

If housekeepers are underpaid, as this program certainly suggests, that’s a human resources issue that Marriott can easily resolve, by raising their salaries. Shifting responsibility for ensuring that housekeepers receive a fair and decent wage to Marriott’s customers is a callous move that disrespects the very workers the company claims it’s assisting. Consider the mixed message: Housekeepers are important, but you can pay them whatever you want. Or not.

Marriott is justifiably proud of its record on enlightened personnel management (Fortune magazine’s “World’s Most Admired Lodging Company;” designated a “World’s Most Ethical Company” by the Ethisphere Institute; awarded “Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles” by the National Business Group on Health; etc.). Bill Marriott, Marriott’s founder and still a presence in the company’s governance, has always stressed the importance of treating workers well in creating a corporate culture conducive to exemplary customer service.

Tipping is a move in the wrong direction. It’s antithetical to Marriott’s own best impulses, and diminishes its status as a leader in compassionate personnel management.

Ditch the envelopes. Raise housekeepers’ pay. And yes, if necessary, increase hotel rates to cover the added expense.

Reader Reality Check

Who’s responsible for fairly compensating hotel housekeepers: you or the hotel company?

This article originally appeared on

By Tim Winship

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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